You know that saying, "two sides of the same coin"? No, not Harvey Dent, get your mind out of the Batman gutter. This metaphor can be applied to a variety of things, including play testing.
Heads (or tails)
When a user makes the choice to test a game, they have made a commitment to analyze it to its fullest, and identify flaws, strengths, bugs, and many other components that will help the developer improve their game. It is a chance for the individual to give constructive criticism for the developers so that they can change aspects of their game to suit the market. In short, the tester is saying "this game is no good because of reasons A, B, and C. To improve it, I would like to see 1, 2, and 3." Is there a proper way to format a critique? Yes. Yes there is. Outlined on the website "personalbrandingblog.com," the steps listed below can help someone form a critique to properly aid a developer.
- Credibility-building introduction. Who are you and why does your opinion matter? Why should you be taken seriously?
- Compliment. Find something you really enjoyed about the game and be sure to compliment them for it, emphasize the strength.
- Criticism. What needs improvement? What is your opinion? Are their facts to back up your claims? Do not judge the person, only the product.
- Suggested improvement. Offer a solution that the developer can implement.
- Follow up. eep in touch. If your criticism has benefited the developer, they may want your feedback in the future.
Critiquing something is not rocket science, and will aid a developer tremendously. The next step in play testing a game is knowing what to look for. An example of this is controls. The player may ask themselves the questions: what do the controls feel like? Are the controls intuitive? Having controls is one thing, having them work in a manner that flows with the game and gives the player an interactive, immersive experience is another. In being able to analyze things like controls, the player may provide feedback that will give the developer a chance to redesign the user interface and make the game more fun to play.
That's one side of the coin.
The Flip Side
On the other side, there are the developers.
When the developer watches someone play their game, they are doing so from a position of experience and complete familiarity with their product (they have spent all that time with it, after all). For a developer it may be hard to step back from that position of complete knowledge of their game, and allow the play tester to approach the game from a completely fresh perspective. As such, the developer must not interfere with the gamer. They must sit back and let the fresh meat figure it out for themselves. By doing this, they gain valuable insight into the strengths of their game, and where they game falls sort. For example, if a player is unable to figure out how to move a character, then it is something that obviously needs improvement, and perhaps the developer did not recognize that before, having been so familiarized with their own product already.
As developers, we want our players to get to the end of the game. If there are problems on the way, we need to know about it so we can update it, improve it, make it glorious. This is why developers have players test their game, so that we can optimize it to the user experience and provide a gamer with a fun, interactive world that they want to keep stepping into.
How does a developer go about finding play testers? For us, on a bi-monthly basis, we take the time to focus on play testing by pin-pointing local events, and setting up a visible demo at places hosted by meet-ups like Full Indie. By doing this on a regular basis, we give ourselves an opportunity to directly meet new players, and we have a chance to interact with fans and developers within our direct community.